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Ruling: Penn
State coach discriminated against basketball player

Ruling: Penn
State coach discriminated against basketball player


Although Penn State has determined that women's basketball coach Rene Portland discriminated against a player because she was thought to be a lesbian, Portland will be kept on the payroll.

In response to a lawsuit, Penn State has determined that its women's basketball coach, Rene Portland, discriminated against player Jennifer Harris because she was thought to be a lesbian. But the university has decided to keep the coach on the payroll, a decision deemed insulting and inadequate by Harris and her attorneys.

In an internal investigation, Penn State found that Portland created a hostile, intimidating, and offensive environment because the coach believed Harris was gay. In addition to a written reprimand, Portland will be required to pay a $10,000 fine and attend a professional development course that teaches diversity; she was also told that if her discriminatory behavior continues, she will be fired.

Harris, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which fought on Harris's behalf, greeted the news with very mixed emotions. "I am disappointed by this result," Harris said. "Penn State did not take the allegations seriously and does not appear interested in solving the underlying problem."

"The courage and bravery of Jennifer Harris finally has exposed Rene Portland's reign of terror," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the NCLR. "I've spoken directly with a number of women who played for Coach Portland over the past three decades and who were traumatized by her antilesbian policy. Given the damage done by Penn State and the personal sacrifice of Jennifer Harris, the consequences faced by Rene Portland are insulting and inadequate."

Karen Doering, senior counsel for NCLR, echoed Kendell's words and added that homophobic discrimination is endemic at Penn State. "We are deeply disappointed that Penn State has chosen such minor rebuke to address such a systemic, quarter-century-long problem," Doering said. "We will go forward with the court-ordered mediation scheduled for mid May, but we do not hold out much hope for a negotiated resolution at this state given Penn State's anemic response and Coach Portland's continued denials and failure to acknowledge that her discriminatory and unlawful behavior needs to change." (The Advocate)

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